Research has potential to improve the lives of the world’s vulnerable people – if it is appropriately referred to in decision-making processes.
While there is a significant industry of activity each year to communicate research findings, little systematic research has tested or compared the effectiveness of such efforts. One popular research communication tool is the policy brief. In this article we draw on findings from a recent study on how a policy brief works; concluding that a policy brief does not have a linear effect on its readers. Instead, a reader can take a number of alternative routes from belief to action, some of which could subvert the intended outcome of the policy brief in question. We reflect also on the question of what makes for an effective policy brief; concluding that policy briefs that give personality and form to the researcher behind the written word may invoke a deeper relationship between the reader and the author, and affect a greater inclination in the reader to share the message with someone else – that is, they pass the hot potato. The study itself was a first of its kind and contributes to our understanding about the effectiveness of research communication, as well as how to evaluate research communication effectiveness.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 43.5 (2012) Passing on the Hot Potato: Lessons from a Policy Brief Experiment